Summary: Jesus identifies himself as the bread of life. He is the food that gives us life and sustains us.
John 6:41-59 “Sustenance”
Valentine’s Day was two days ago. For many of us, we bowed to the Hallmark marketers and attempted to make the day a time for love and romance. We purchased cards, flowers, chocolates, and perhaps even jewelry, and gave them to the one we love. Our efforts were not to celebrate the day of St. Valentine, but rather to express the depth of our love for another.
This Sunday we have the story of Jesus proclaiming himself to be the Bread of Life. Previously, in chapter three, we have read that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that all may have life. Today we discover that another facet of this gift of love is that Jesus is the bread; he is our sustenance. Jesus is more than something that smells good, glitters, or adds a few pounds to our waistlines. Jesus empowers us to live and enables us to enjoy spiritual health.
In Jesus’ interaction with the Jewish religious authorities, we discover what it means to partake of this Bread of Life, in our daily lives. And, we learn what it means to live in a relationship with Jesus.
At the beginning of chapter six, Jesus feeds the 5,000. After the people experience what Jesus can do for them, they offer to make him king. The people envision a life with Jesus as a Messianic Daddy Warbucks. Jesus could provide them with everything they need. They would be able to live lives of comfort and leisure. Can anyone say, “Gold Diggers”?
We shouldn’t be too harsh on our judgment of these people, though. Often we act much like them. We expect the creator of all things, the King of kings and Lord of lords, to bend to our every whim and fancy.
• Jesus, help me get a good grade on this test. I haven’t studied, but I need an “A.”
• Jesus, heal my loved one.
• Jesus, I don’t have a budget, and I spend my money on some pretty stupid things, but I need more of it.
When our Lord and God doesn’t respond to our petitions, we pout. We mumble that God really isn’t a very powerful God, or a very loving God, if God can’t respond to such small requests. Sometimes we even decide that the Christian life isn’t worth it. There simply isn’t enough in it for us.
DRAWN TO GOD
The demonstration of love in the person of Jesus Christ is not enough for our God. God draws us into a relationship with him.
Some of Jesus’ words hint at the fact that people decide to follow him. In verse 35, he states that, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” In verse 37, Jesus says, “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” These words are superseded, however, by Jesus’ stress that God draws people to himself.
Jesus says in verse 44 that, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father.” The translation, “drawn,” really has more of the emphasis of “dragged.” God drags us in to life—sometimes God drags us kicking and screaming.
We may grin at this image, but I know that it is certainly true in my life. I can’t count the times the Lord has nudged me toward taking a step of faith, trusting him for fully, and following him more closely and I have balked. Finally God has dragged me into his embrace and held me tight as I took the next step. The Holy Spirit never stops drawing us into life and into a relationship with God.
LIFE AND LOVE
In the gospel of John, a person can live—a physical life at least—but not really be alive. To live fully, one must live in a relationship with Jesus. To live a life one was meant to live one must love.
Jesus proclaims in verse 56 that, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. There is that word again—dwell, “pitch one’s tent.” The Word became flesh and dwelt among humankind in chapter 1. Now Jesus declares that he—the Word—will dwell in us and we will dwell in him. What a powerful picture of an intimate relationship with our creator.
Certainly, Jesus’ words about flesh and blood refer, in part, to Holy Communion. Coming to Jesus is to come to the table. But, there is more. Different church contexts have different understandings of what it means